Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
University of Arizona
Digital Data Farming: Technology, Tradition, and the Remaking of Livelihoods in Turkish Agriculture

A growing world population and shrinking agricultural land are increasing pressure on “in-the-ground” agriculture, leading to food insecurity and economic, social and political instability in many parts of the world. Turkey is also experiencing this pressure, despite being around the seventh-largest agricultural producer worldwide. Since the 2010s Turkey has been one of several countries that have undertaken projects for the “digitization” of agricultural production, distribution and marketing alongside its financialization (mostly credits and loans). These projects seek increased efficiency (more food from less land) through digitized, automated, and customized agroecological data, information, and knowledge via sensors and “big data” algorithms. Yet, there is a growing awareness that farmers’ longstanding “traditional” knowledges and practices are often highly adaptive and productive of crops but also socio-economic and environmental benefits. This awareness suggests that it will be advantageous to revive and/or adjust many of these knowledges and practices, and incorporate them into emergent digital technology applications. These are consonant with participatory and entrepreneurial management and rural development models that have shifted to such approaches since the 1980s, in contrast to earlier “out with the old, in with the new” approaches to mechanization and modernization. However, digital agriculture’s risks, including socioeconomic exclusion, precarity and deskilling are barely discussed. I will conduct 12 months of ethnographic research with one of the country’s first private digital agricultural technology companies; a “smart village” public-private collaboration; farmers who are participating in these projects and farmers who are not, experts, scientists and engineers; and related public entities and online platforms. This research will document what longstanding knowledges and practices are being revived and retained, how they articulate with the new technologies, and what the effects are on farmers’ practices and income.